THEATER | DANCE | CLASSICAL MUSIC | OPERA | COMEDY

NORTH TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS NEWS

SOLUNA FESTIVAL 2019

Conductor James Gaffigan
Music and Opera reporting on TheaterJones.com is made possible by The University of North Texas College of Music.
Select the link below to discover more.

Hark How the Bells

Tchaikovsky and Liszt get the glory in this weekend's Dallas Symphony performance; but Rachmaninoff's rarely heard The Bells is of interest.



published Sunday, April 14, 2019

Photo: Festival de Saint-Denis
Conductor James Gaffigan

 

“Oh, from out the sounding cells

What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!

How it swells!”

— Edgar Allan Poe, “The Bells”

 

The text of The Bells (Kolokola), Rachmaninoff’s 1913 four-movement work for chorus and orchestra, has a somewhat curious history. As performed this weekend by the Dallas Symphony and Chorus with conductor James Gaffigan, the history is more curious still. Rachmaninoff’s text is based on a very loose Russian adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1849 poem “The Bells” by symbolist poet Konstantin Balmont. For this weekend’s supertitles, Balmont’s text has been translated back into English, and those who know Poe’s rhymey, alliterative, onomatopoetic original will see little that is familiar to them.

In brief: Balmont took a poem that is all about sound and changed it into something entirely different. Then Rachmaninoff, rather ironically, set the Russian version to music, giving it back the sound that Balmont excised.

This weekend is the first time the DSO has performed The Bells, and with good reason, frankly. It requires a large orchestra, including organ, piano, and celeste, plus a full chorus and three vocal soloists. It is always worthwhile to hear a live performance of a piece so seldom played. But there are a limited number of opportunities to enlist these many personnel for a program, and there are many better pieces for chorus and orchestra. Rachmaninoff was a brilliant melodist, but we hear little of that here. And this is a dark piece. While Poe’s poem moves us progressively from light (the sledge bells and wedding bells) to darkness (the alarum bells and iron bells) in the poem’s four parts, Rachmaninoff takes us nearly straight to doom, quoting the Dies Irae prominently, even in the second movement, “The Mellow Wedding Bells.” What kind of wedding IS this, anyway?

Photo: Courtesy DSO
DSO Chorus director Joshua Habermann

Still, the chorus was brilliantly prepared by director Joshua Habermann—their dynamic range in particular was thrilling. It’s pretty easy to get 200 singers to sing loudly. Softly? Not so much, but Habermann and his chorus manage it beautifully. All three soloists, tenor Sergey Skorokhodov, baritone Andrei Bondarenko, and especially soprano Mané Galoyan, were excellent in their roles, with fine phrasing, breath control, and range of color. The orchestra under conductor Gaffigan was very fine indeed, most especially English horn player David Matthews, whose controlled, lyrical, gorgeous fourth movement solo was the highlight of the performance.

But the real joy of the evening happened after intermission. While listeners may often think of Lizst’s music as full of flash and dash, his Concerto No. 2 in A Major belies that reputation. It is a technically sophisticated concerto with considerably more interplay between orchestra and soloist than we hear in his first concerto. Soloist Yefim Bronfman is a player of exceptional subtlety and musicality, weaving himself into the fabric of the orchestra rather than demanding attention. He is a team player, adjusting his tempo at one point to match the orchestra’s, and making eye contact with Principal Cello Chris Adkins, whose cello solos were heartbreakingly beautiful and tenderly phrased.

The headliner of the evening came last: the choral version of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Usually, in the U.S., this piece is played at Independence Day concerts, which is a little weird, historically speaking. But played indoors, it loses a lot of its flair. After all, this is a piece written for carillon and cannons. (When I was in college, I performed it with both, which remains one of the most thrilling musical experiences of my life.) Indoors, neither cannon nor carillon is feasible, and tubular bells and bass drum are a bit of a sad substitute. So, enter the chorus! The original version of the overture is instrumental, beginning with just two violas and four cellos keening the opening melody. The choral version replaces them with full chorus, which is certainly more dramatic, but it negates some of the slow intensification that is the appeal of the original version: “Let’s start with six strings, and end with cannons, cathedral bells, and a brass band” is a bold idea, for sure. However listeners might feel about the addition of the chorus—or the absence of those cannons—the Dallas Symphony and Chorus performed ably, providing a thrilling ending to a quirky program. Thanks For Reading





Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
Hark How the Bells
Tchaikovsky and Liszt get the glory in this weekend's Dallas Symphony performance; but Rachmaninoff's rarely heard The Bells is of interest.
by J. Robin Coffelt

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie Jane fonda Undermain Patsy Cline Behind Closed Doors Multi Camp Garland Summer Musicals Watertower Jubilee Stage West Circle Theatre Uptown Players Piano Texas Mimir 2019 TCU MCL Grand UNT College of Music KD Studios Open Classicial Melinda Massie
Click or Swipe to close
reviews
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
audiocasts
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
contests
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
crowdfunding
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
studio
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web



Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:


Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:


TheaterJones Section:


Category:
Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Search
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  



Your Name:
Your Email Adress:


please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :
Submit